If a loan is already in default, you may still have time to set things right. An official default on a monthly repayment schedule occurs when no payments have been made for 270 days. But lenders don't have to report the default to their guaranty agency for another 90 days, says Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org. If a payment is made before the lender reports a default, he says, "you'll still be delinquent unless you pay the debt in full, but it won't be recorded as a default."

Call immediately to find out whether the grace period is still applicable in your case. If not, the situation isn't hopeless. Default will stay on your child's credit report for seven years -- and yours, if you co-signed the loan, or in the case of Parent PLUS loans -- and it prohibits eligibility for forbearance, deferment and further access to additional federal student loans. But it is also 100% fixable. Completing a loan-rehabilitation program will remove the blot and reinstate all those privileges.

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Loan rehabilitation involves making payments within 20 days of the due date for nine of 10 consecutive payment periods. Call the Department of Education at 1-800-621-3115 to begin rehabilitating your loan.

Painless parking tickets

If you're not going to contest a citation, get over it and pay up. Otherwise, your tardiness can get expensive. Many states boot or tow the cars of repeat offenders or delinquents, and reclaiming your vehicle can cost hundreds of dollars.

In Florida, once you've accumulated three parking tickets, you can't renew your car's registration until you make good on your fines. Los Angeles can withhold your state tax refund if you have long-overdue tickets. And some jurisdictions now send unpaid accounts to collection agencies, after which the tickets will show up on your credit record (if they haven't already).

Many states are chummy with one another about sharing registration records. Connecticut, for example, suspends residents' licenses if they don't pay parking tickets issued in other states. If a ticket is no longer in your possession, contact the department of motor vehicles in the state where you received it to find out how to pay.